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Tag: conditions

Puppy mill law, with boost from First Lady, passes N.C. House, heads to Senate

 A law requiring dog breeders to provide fresh food and water, daily exercise, veterinary care and sanitary shelter was passed by the North Carolina House Thursday, with help from the governor’s wife.

Ann McCrory, who normally leaves the politics to her husband, released a statement Wednesday supporting House Bill 930.

“… Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to people across our state,” she wrote.

“ … I hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for commercial breeders. These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state…”

The bill sets basic standards of care for operations that use more than 10 females for breeding.

Many say it is a watered-down version of previous attempts to pass a puppy mill law, but add that the compromise is better than nothing in a state some breeding operations have been relocating to in an attempt to avoid regulation.

“North Carolina is the only state in the Southeast without puppy mill laws,” explained Caleb Scott, President of North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare told Fox 8 News. “We are a puppy mill destination in North Carolina because we have no laws on the books. Puppy millers gravitate to our state.”

The minimum standards required by the bill, as it has been amended, would notapply to breeders of hunting dogs, sporting dogs, field dogs, or show dogs.

It now heads to the Senate.

WRAL described Ann McCrory’s letter as her “first foray into public advocacy” since her husband took office.

The McCrory’s have a Labrador Retriever named Mo.

(Photo: Erin Hull / The Daily Tar Heel)

NBC report questions AKC inspections

The American Kennel Club is doing a much better job of protecting bad breeders than it is protecting dogs.

That’s the gist of this investigative report that aired yesterday on NBC’s  “Today” show

The accusations aren’t exactly new, and weren’t exactly uncovered by NBC, but it’s good to see the issue getting some national attention.

The AKC, investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen notes, calls itself ”the dog’s champion …

“But critics say there’s an ugly reality you don’t see: Some AKC breeders raising diseased dogs, malnourished, living in their own filth. It’s so disturbing that now two of the country’s largest animal welfare groups, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society, are condemning the AKC.”

The report included an interview with one dog owner, who purchased a Great Dane from a kennel  only weeks after that kennel was inspected by the AKC and found in compliance. The puppy turned out to have intestinal parasites, an upper respiratory infection and a congenital eye defect.

“Law enforcement went into the kennel just two months later, and rescued dozens of dogs,” Rossen reported.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is featured heavily in the report, and makes the point that the AKC should be working with animal welfare groups to protect dogs instead of protecting bad breeders and fighting laws that would crack down on them.

AKC Director of Communications Lisa Peterson, also interviewed for the report, says she would give the AKC an “A” for its inspection program.

But when the reporter asked how many breeders are producing AKC-registered dogs, she said, “That’s a great question. We don’t know.” And when asked what percentage of AKC registered breeders end up getting inspected, she wouldn’t offer a ball park figure.

“We do thousands of inspections annually,” Peterson said. “We’ve done 55,000 inspections since the year 2000.”

“But what percentage of breeders actually get inspected?”

“… I don’t have that figure,” Peterson said. “I’m sorry.”

Peterson said there are nine AKC inspectors in the U.S. Asked “Do you think that’s an adequate number?” she said, ”That’s the number that we have.”

PETA vs. BARCS

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has accused Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS) of being overcrowded (which no one is going to argue with), unhealthy (which is debatable) and of allowing an injured cat to sit for hours before it was euthanized (which the shelter adamantly denies).

The criticisms are based on a complaint from a citizen and a follow-up investigation by Teresa Chagrin, a sepcialist with PETA’s cruelty investigations department, which included a visit to the facility.

Chagrin said a resident of Hamilton named Joe Lombardo witnessed the cat get attacked by a dog and called animal control. The cat was neither treated nor put down for seven hours after arriving at BARCS, he said. The cat arrived at BARCS Aug. 8, according to the Baltimore Sun.  When Lombardo called BARCS the next day, he says he was told that the severely injured cat was not put down until 8:30 the next morning.

BARCS officials said Tuesday that the cat was immediately evaluated and then euthanized.

“That’s completely wrong,” Debbie Rahl, the shelter’s rescue coordinator, said of the complaint. “There was no delay.”

Chagrin apparently had investigated BARCS before the cat incident. In July, she wrote a letter to the city’s health department, criticizing conditions she had either witnessed or been told about.

“Visitors to the city facility report that several rooms lined with cages from floor to ceiling contain cats housed in high temperatures while small box fans, apparently meant to cool the rooms, simply blow hot air around the floors,” Chagrin wrote. “I visited the facility on June 13, 2010, and verified the complaints. During my visit, many cats showed signs of overheating — the majority of cats were lying on their sides with their eyes closed and were breathing very rapidly. They had no interest in visitors and appeared extremely lethargic.”

Chagrin said Wednesday she’d received no response from the city.

Jennifer Brause, BARCS executive director, called the complaints unfounded and said the cat was evaluated and then put down, a process that took several hours. Brause said the staff and volunteers have increased the number of animals whose lives have been saved at the shelter by 60% over the last few years.

Probe finds lax enforcement of puppy mills

Lax government enforcement of puppy mills has led to countless dogs dying and living in horrific conditions, according to an internal government report.

Investigators say the Department of Agriculture often ignores repeat violations, waives penalties and doesn’t adequately document inhumane treatment of dogs, the Associated Press reported.

In one case cited by the department’s inspector general, 27 dogs died at an Oklahoma breeding facility–  after inspectors had visited the facility repeatedly and cited it for violations.

The review, conducted between 2006 and 2008, found that more than half of those breeders who had already been cited for violations flouted the law again.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Tuesday that USDA will take immediate action. “USDA will reinforce its efforts under its animal welfare responsibilities, including tougher penalties for repeat offenders and greater consistent action to strongly enforce the law,” he said.

Federal investigators uncovered grisly conditions at puppy mills around the country where dogs were infested with ticks, living with gaping wounds and in pools of feces, according to the report.

The report recommends that the animal care unit at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service immediately confiscate animals that are dying or seriously suffering, and better train its inspectors to document, report and penalize wrongdoing.

The investigators visited 68 dog breeders and dog brokers in eight states that had been cited for at least one violation in the previous three years. They found that first-time violators and even repeat offenders were rarely penalized.

“The agency believed that compliance achieved through education and cooperation would result in long-term dealer compliance and, accordingly, it chose to take little or no enforcement action against most violators,” the report said.

In the case of the Oklahoma breeding facility, the breeder had been cited for 29 violations, including nine repeated violations, from February 2006 to January 2007. The inspector returned in November 2007 before any enforcement action had taken place, according to the report, and found five dead dogs and “other starving dogs that had resorted to cannibalism.”

Despite these conditions, the inspectors did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, the report says, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was revoked.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, said the report confirms what animal rights groups have been pointing out for for years.

“Enforcement is flaccid, the laws are weak and reform needs to happen,” he said. “We have long criticized having the animal welfare enforcement functions within a bureaucracy dedicated to promoting American agriculture. There’s a built-in conflict of interest.”

Gayla’s Little Poodle Palace shut down

Gayla’s Little Poodle Palace, on the outskirts of Sparta, Tennessee, wasn’t so little.

More than 200 dogs — 221, according to the Humane Society of the United States — were seized from the puppy mill last week by the White County Sheriff’s Department after complaints that they were being housed in unsanitary conditions and lacked proper socialization and medical care.

All of the animals have been surrendered by the owner to the custody of the White County Sheriff’s Department, according to an HSUS press release.

The HSUS assisted in removing the animals and transporting them to an emergency shelter set up and staffed by the HSUS, the White County Humane Society and United Animal Nations. There, the dogs will be examined by a team of veterinarians before being transferred to animal shelters for evaluation and adoption.

“These dogs were being sold to unsuspecting consumers over the Internet and through newspaper advertisements. This should be a reminder to anyone looking for a new pet to first consider adoption, and only purchase a dog if you have personally visited the breeder,” said Leighann McCollum, HSUS Tennessee state director.

The dogs, mostly toy poodles, some with serious medical issues, were all living living in a small home.

Sheriff Oddie Shoupe said puppy mill owner Gayla Jackson was cooperating with authorities.

“She said she needed the help and didn’t know where to turn, and that this was a blessing in disguise,” said Shoupe. “She started grooming dogs, then it blossomed into a breeding operation, and it was too much for her to take care of.”

Eckhart defends conditions at his kennel

The former owner of Almost Heaven Kennel in Pennsylvania, taking the stand in his trial on animal cruelty charges, portrayed himself as a savior of dogs in need of rescue.

Derbe “Skip” Eckhart took the stand Friday, describing his efforts to tend to the hundreds of animals at his Lehigh County kennel, the Associated Press reported.

Eckhart testified Friday that he rescued many dogs from breeders who no longer wanted them, saving animals that would otherwise have been destroyed. He disputed prosecution claims that he neglected dogs and cats in his care.

Breeders routinely called Eckhart and said that if he didn’t come for their unwanted dogs, they would simply shoot them, Eckhart testified.

“And that’s what I did,” he said. “I came for them.”

Prosecutors allege Eckhart kept hundreds of dogs in filthy conditions.

Witnesses from the Pennsylvania SPCA and the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement testified earlier in the trial that dogs at the kennel lived in their own urine and feces and suffered from a lack of routine veterinary care, contributing to their poor health.

Eckhart said he enjoyed a “very good working relationship” with animal welfare agencies until October, 2008, when agents from the Pennsylvania SPCA and the state dog law bureau raided the kennel, detaining Eckhart and his workers for hours while the media looked on.

Eckhart’s attorney, Jeff Conrad, has maintained his client was targeted by publicity-seeking animal-welfare officials.

Eckhart said he took in about 30 dogs from another breeder only a few weeks before the raid. He acknowledged that some of those dogs still needed to be bathed and groomed at the time of the raid, but insisted that he was getting to them.

Trial for ex-owner of Almost Heaven begins

Testimony began yesterday in the trial for Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, accused of animal cruelty and dog law violations at the kennel he operated in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.

The first witness, a state dog warden, described conditions at the Almost Heaven Kennel — shut down by authorities last year — as “foul,” according to the Allentown Morning Call.

“I couldn’t breathe. I wish I could give you what I smell in my mind right now. I’ll never forget it. Ever,” Kristin Donmoyer testified, recounting what she saw during an October 2008 raid at the kennel in Upper Milford Township

She said drains inside the kennel were filled with feces and stagnant liquid that could attract pests and promote disease. “This was foul,” Donmoyer testified. “You couldn’t walk past it without gagging.” She said she saw accumulations of feces, soiled and saturated animal bedding, “gunk” covered fencing, rusty pipes, exposed fiberglass and ripped up flooring.

The state Department of Agriculture found the violations to be so egregious, she said, that it revoked Eckhart’s breeding and boarding licenses.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Conrad, in his opening statement Monday, had warned the jury that they would see some excrement in the trial:

”Are you gonna see turds? You betcha,” he said.

”That fella right there is Derbe ‘Skip’ Eckhart,” Conrad said during his opening. ”This fella right here loves dogs, loves critters … The problem with this guy is that Skip can’t say no to any mutt. That guy right there is just dumb enough to take your ugly dog.”

The defense attorney said Eckhart is the innocent victim of officials seeking media attention: ”Those folks at the Department of Agriculture and the SPCA love money and they love headlines,” he said. ”What we have here is a man that loves animals and a government that loves headlines.”

George Cropwell came, soon after, the old language.